Pick Up Your Phone

I was talking with my uncle when the beeps came through. Two calls within a matter of moments. It was the Cowboy trying to get through on the other line.

I hesitated to switch over given we had just talked minutes earlier. Surely it could wait, I thought. But two calls. Maybe the shoeing rig finally died. Maybe there was an accident. Something had to be up. It wasn’t like him to pester.

“Can I call you back?” I asked my uncle.

I no more than hung up and a text appeared.

“Pick up your phone,” it read.

I called him back.

“Have you seen the email,” he asked?

Farm Fresh Eggs ..

I had been sitting the other day at the kitchen table, where most of my work is done anymore, when I heard the Cowboy’s van pull up.  He shoes out of a van that is a story in and of itself. Anyway …

I went to the door to greet him, it had been a long day. And as he got out of the van, I saw him reach for and pull out a plastic bag that was absolutely full. I knew what was in it, he often brings bags like this home.

“We got eggs,” he said smiling.

EggsThere are customers of the Cowboy’s that often will send wonderful treats home with him. Farm fresh eggs, fresh bread, wonderful vegetables and the list goes on. I am incredibly grateful not only for their generosity to our family but also that they appreciate the work the Cowboy does trimming and shoeing their horses for them to the extent, I believe this is the country version of a tip.

Fry ’em up!

Work. Or lack of.

The Cowboy and I are sitting at the table tonight looking at calendars.  And talking.  He tells me he’s got a busy week ahead and work is picking back up.  He’s wearing a smile.  One I haven’t seen in awhile.


“I’m sorry I’ve been kind of crabby lately,” he says to me, in rather good spirits.  “I’ve got the wintertime blues.”  He laughs.

I know, I tell him.  I reassure him it’s not a problem and I get it.  I’ve battled a slight case of it myself lately.  And it has nothing to do with the weather.

Winter trim.

Winter trim –

Work, or lack of, has been a topic of discussion for us the past couple months.  The Cowboy, because winters are just slow in the farrier business and this has been a brutal winter.  When it is frigid, which it has been a lot, people cancel shoeing appointments.  When it snows, which it has a lot this winter, people cancel shoeing appointments.  When the roads are icy, which they were again yesterday and today, people cancel shoeing appointments.  No one wants to be out in it.   The Cowboy included.  But given it is the majority of his livelihood, no work means no pay.


Work is also slow in the winter because .. because of a little factoid I am a bit fascinated with:  horses hooves don’t grow as fast this time of year.  Did you know this?  You may, but I learned only recently despite having my own horses for years.  Apparently I’ve not paid all that much attention to the time span between farrier visits.


“Horse hooves are like human fingernails and they just grow slower when it gets colder,”  the Cowboy tells me when I ask him again to explain.


“But I’ve also been told sunlight plays a role.  Kind of like when they start to shed in the spring, that has more to do with the amount of sunlight they’re getting, not necessarily because of the temperature.”


He’s still smiling as he looks at his calendar, which appears to be filling up for the first time in months.  The blues, especially with Daylight Savings around the corner, appear to be waning.



What the Cowboy Says He’s Learned in the City. No. 1 ..

I wonder if I didn’t have to stop to pick up after the dogs … how long it would actually take me on my run each morning.


Many of my friends really seem to enjoy talking with the Cowboy.  The cowboys.  My ‘city’ friends too.  They are always asking him about some of the things he does, they know little to nothing about.  Things that back home for him (or even 20 miles outside Madison), are everyday things that everyone knows about and ask rarely for explanation.  Even the posts I happen to write about anything cowboy way-of-life here on the blog, seem to consistently get the most hits.

The Cowboy asked me the other day, what are you going to write about today.  I answer, “It hasn’t hit me yet.”

So he says, “You should write a blog about what I’ve learned from you.”

I laugh …

“I’m not so sure I know what you’ve learned from me,” I say at first.

Plus that isn’t as interesting, I say to myself.

He starts down the list of things he’s learned.

“How about, picking up dog poop.”

He laughs…


The first few times the Cowboy visited this past fall, after I decided to stop being a vagabond (I house sat for awhile after selling my own home just over a year ago, not sure where or if I wanted to plant firm roots anywhere again, yet) and settle into my own place ..

He offered to walk my dogs while I was either a) getting ready to go wherever it was we were heading off to or b) at work.

I came home one afternoon after work and happened to see a big pile of evidence he had most likely been in the back yard of the apartment building with the dogs while I was gone.  But hadn’t quite completed all the steps of ‘taking the dogs out’.

“Is that from one of ours?” I ask.

“Probably,” he says.  “I took them out awhile ago.”

I head out to pick up after them.  And then we have ‘the talk.’

“I hate to tell you this, but you’ve got to pick up after them,” I say.  “I know that’s not a fun job, so if you want to leave that for me, I’ll get to it.  But just know, it’s got to be picked up.”

I’ve been doing it for about as long as I can remember.  Always had dogs.  Always lived where it needed to be picked up.

I used to use Oops Scoops.  But they seem harder anymore to use the cardboard piece inside .. to pick up the pile.  I find myself chasing the pieces around on the grass more than I am picking them up.

So I’ve reverted back to biodegradable small plastic baggies.  Which, used to totally gross me out, but they’re quick, convenient and they just work.



“You have to pick up after your dogs,” he starts laughing.  “That’s a new one for me.  I live in the country .. never had to do that one.”

For a man used to turning ’em out, letting them run, having them do their business in a pasture or nearby grove of trees and them coming back when they are through… he’s gotten the hang of it all.  Now when I even think of asking if everything is taken care of.. he beats me to the punch.

“Yep.  All taken care of,” he usually says, smiling.

The dogs, couldn’t be happier.  I’m not so sure about the Cowboy.

I promised though, to not even consider asking for help..

With the cats.

It’s not ‘a lasso’ …

We were grabbing lunch the other day with a girlfriend of mine.. and I’m not sure how the topic came up.

But the word ‘lasso’ flew into the conversation..

“Uh oh,” I thought.  And I started laughing.

“If you don’t want to look like a greenhorn,” says the Cowboy…

“Don’t call it a lasso.  People from the city are always calling it a lasso,” he says to her, very seriously.

“It bugs me.”

We all start laughing.  Me, in part because I made the same mistake early on in this relationship.  And I’m not sure I’ll ever live it down.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

lasso (play /ˈlæs/ or /læˈs/), also referred to as a lariatriata, or reata (all from Spanish la reata), is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. It is a well-known tool of the American cowboy. The word is also a verb; to lasso is to successfully throw the loop of rope around something. Although the tool has several proper names, such terms are rarely employed by those who actually use it; nearly all cowboys simply call it a “rope,” and the use of such “roping.” Amongst most cowboys, the use of other terms – especially “lasso” – quickly identifies one as a layman.

A lariat is made from stiff rope so that the noose stays open when the lasso is thrown. It also allows the cowboy to easily open up the noose from horseback to release the cattle because the rope is stiff enough to be pushed a little. A high quality lasso is weighted for better handling. The lariat has a small reinforced loop at one end, called a honda or hondo, through which the rope passes to form a loop.


The honda or hando.. for the record, doesn’t sound like it looks apparently.  Cowboy says it’s pronounced (hahn-doo)…


The Cowboy grew up roping.

When he was just 3 or 4, he says he would hop on a crazy horse named Chief, with his dad, and they would ride about 5 miles through the pastures to a neighbors house.  To roping club.

The Cowboy says if he remembers right, Chief was ugly as sin.   (A little side note there.)  But, a good horse.

It was a weekly competition.  Apparently anywhere from 20 to 30 guys would show up.  They kept track of how everyone did, kind of like a league.  And at the end of the year, they gave away a buckle.

“Did you love it?” I asked as we were talking about what I might write.

“I did.  It was good.  I just grew up with it.  Roped all through school.  For a few years when we moved to town, I quit.  But when they bought another place in the country… my uncle got us all started again.  I haven’t stopped since, I guess.  Until now.”

The Cowboy’s earned quite a few buckles in his career.  He made it to state time and again in high school ..  roped all through college and was team roping professionally, until the divorce.  He didn’t want to be gone on weekends anymore or traveling when he might have a chance to see his kids.  And life with the rodeo, is apparently, a life on the road.


He is still on the road quite a bit, back and forth between South Dakota and Wisconsin.  In fact, he grabbed his coat just this morning.. and headed for home.

He gets a few hours tonight with the kids..

And he loves that they .. are the ones now picking up the rope.

In fact, my daughter, since meeting the Cowboy has learned quite a bit.

Even she reminds me;  Real cowboys use a rope.  When you’re above your head and its a in a circle, its still not called ‘a lasso’.  It’s called swinging your loop.

I can still hear her.. the last time I messed up and called it the wrong thing, and then asked, ‘why, again’?

‘That’s just what you call it, mom.’

I believe that’s the same answer (minus the ‘mom’ reference) I gave the other day, to my girlfriend.

First time for everything ..

I wake to find the Cowboy sitting at the keyboard, once again.

“I did my first tweet,” he laughs.  “I tweeted.”

We are both back at the computer, me to check on a few things, look for story ideas and share some thoughts here before I hopefully squeeze in a run before work today.

Him, to continue gathering information and thoughts before his trip back home and to Pierre this Thursday morning.

The Cowboy has been at the computer a lot lately.

In fact, he told me yesterday, he hasn’t worked this much on the computer since college.

If you haven’t read a couple of my earlier posts that would explain what any of this is about.. It’s all in preparation of testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

The Cowboy plans to testify along with some others, about why he feels the South Dakota state legislature should support a law allowing both parents in a divorce to have time and placement with their children.  There are two options.  One would be a step above current law.  The other (below) would be a tremendous step forward.


Current statute in South Dakota dictates it is in the best interest of a child to live almost exclusively with one parent.


And it has torn countless families apart, we’re learning.  The Cowboy has been taking an increasing number of calls from other parents who want to help raise their kids, but who, through divorce have been deliberately alienated from their children.

The Cowboy, by the way, has tried calling his kids everyday – once a day since seeing them last.  He gets a few hours after school with them each Wednesday.  Just one phone call has been allowed.  That was on Thursday this past week.  He hasn’t been allowed to speak to his children since.

We’re just never sure why that is.  Especially when the kids ask him to call more often.

It’s sad he is left in this scenario with two choices;  tell them he does call but for some reason their mother doesn’t answer .. or tell them they’re right, he should call more often leaving them to believe their dad doesn’t care or want to be more a part of their lives.  No one wins here.  Including the kids.

Which is why .. the Cowboy sits at the computer again today.  Making sure he’s maximizing awareness these two shared parenting bills are coming up for debate.

Given the lack of publicity, the Cowboy felt a bit defeated this weekend, that no one really cares.

I remind him, it’s enough that he does.  Because there are many, many others out there who like him, aren’t sure what to do about their own devastating situation.  Someone needs to be their voice.

Tweet, testimony, or otherwise.  I’m pretty sure he feels good to be doing ‘something’ to work toward positive change.  If not in his own situation, hopefully for others.

What I do know for certain, is that he’s looking forward to the day twitter is no longer in his vocabulary, he can get back shoeing horses (winter fortunately is a slow time of year for work) and the work he enjoys most.

That is being a dad.

Serving up breakfast

“Not much” …

“Never do I close my door behind me without being conscious that I am carrying out an act of charity towards myself.” – Peter Hoeg

“What are you all up to,” I ask.. as the Cowboy and I and all the kiddos are talking early Saturday via the videophone.

“Not much,” he says.

“The kids are watching a movie.  We had some of those clementines you bought earlier this week, they love ’em.. they really do.  I can’t believe we’ve never had them before.. they’re so much easier to peel than .. a regular orange.  I think we’ll have to start buying them.  They’ve had four each this morning!”

I love clementines.

Because the Cowboy and the kids are so rarely at the house for any length of time, he hates buying perishable food.  So I bought them tons of fruit earlier this week, in part because I wanted it for myself while there.  He fussed at me a bit for it.  But I want them all to be healthy as .. well, a horse.  Use whatever analogy there you’d like.  All I know is fresh fruit does the body better than say, ice cream or chips, for a snack.  And the kiddos are all sick right now with nasty colds.  I’m happy to hear they’ve discovered the awesomeness of clementines.

Lazy day

“What do you have planned for the day?”

I ask, because I know unlike most other weekends when family is around or I am around there is a lot going on.  Everyone, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends are around and want time with the four of them, because otherwise there is precious little time these days to see the kids.

“Nothing.  In fact, I’m not sure we’re going to leave the house.”  He’s got a big smile on his face.  “I’ve got homemade potato soup going already.  We’re just going to hang out together and relax.  I think they need it.”

I’m jealous.

I can hear laughter, music, the keyboard being practiced on, and a whole lot of … well, not  much going on in the background there.

Down time is a wonderful thing.  In fact, one of my colleagues did a story this week on how rarely we make room for down time in this hectic, constantly accessible, on-the-go fast paced life, and a place you can go to literally book a room in a place where all you do is be quiet.  And contemplate.  Life.  Anything.  But the goal is to just be still.

I understand the need for a place to go to find that, away from home because so often we get caught up in what else needs to get done.  Or who is stopping by.  But I also chuckle at the fact most of us can’t find a place anymore to be quiet in our own home.

I know its tough for the Cowboy and many others to believe I appreciate that, given how busy I usually am.

But I do.

It is why, since living a few years in Montana and discovering what the Big Sky does for my soul, I’ve wanted to return to the west.  The wide open spaces remind me (and often I need that) I can be as busy or as still as I want to be.  And both are good.

I called them again on our way to see old friends last night from my hometown.

“What are you all up to?” I ask.  “How is the day going?” ..

His daughter comes into view and she’s got the biggest smile on her face.  “Nothing,” they say.  She hangs out, leaning against her dad and loving watching herself on the screen.  After a few minutes as her dad and I keep talking, she runs off.  I can hear her playing the keyboard again and amidst laughter from the boys.

Here in Wisconsin ..

Grocery store run

.. we are hustling around, running to the store for something I forgot to get when I went earlier this week, going for a run, running errands, returning messages.  And that was just the morning.  The afternoon got a whole lot more busy, and fun.  Full of things to get done, friends and family.  Crazy day.  But a good one.

The Cowboy’s folks and the rest of the family he and the kids would typically be surrounded by, are at the http://www.centralstatesfair.com/stock-show/schedule/.

In fact, I think half the state is.  Everywhere we went when I was there earlier this week, the second question asked after ‘how are you, pard?’  .. was, ‘we gonna see you at the Stock Show?’  The Cowboy usually goes.  His mom I believe is doing a lot of shopping at the trade shows.  His brother is there selling a horse he’s got beautifully trained.  The whole show is a pretty big deal it seems. The Cowboy explains to me, it’s kind of like the little brother to the NFR in Vegas.  It’s busy.  It’s fun.  And we’ll probably go next year, he explains to me.

But this year, this particular weekend, he is soaking up how quiet it is, back at the ranch.

The power of being still

I just spoke with him again.  “We’ve done absolutely nothing,” he laughs as he has the best look in his eyes.  (Which is pretty cool to see across the miles – via the vid phone)

I have a feeling when we talk again later today .. I’ll hear more of the same.

There just isn’t enough time sometimes to do a whole lot of nothing.  Or three children who are willing to spend time doing nothing either.  They grow up too fast and are off in their own directions.  Weekends used to be for that, didn’t they?  Rest.  Perhaps in some households they still are.  The Cowboy has reminded me that on occasion at least, they should be.

Which is why this morning, my daughter still sleeps while I sit at the dining room table, sunlight streaming across the room at me.  The TV is off.  The sound of someone shoveling outside and the hot water heat kicking back on through the radiators is the only noise I hear.  I have my coffee.  A clementine.  The dog at my feet.  And the day ahead.  To do a whole lot of something, or a little bit of nothing ourselves.

A good night’s rest…

Its been a long day and the Cowboy is sleeping in bed alongside me.  About 20 seconds and he was out.

“I’m not used to going all day,” he says very seriously a few hours ago.  “You know that.  And I want to be in bed before midnight.  We have a big day tomorrow.”

Afternoon chores

I’m used to the Cowboy being in a much lighter mood, more well rested and having gotten in a run and played his guitar for about an hour each day.

We’ve been on the go now for about 6 days in a row.  Early mornings, full days and late nights.  Who wouldn’t it wear on?  But when we cancelled our initial trip to Phoenix and decided there was work to do here, my comment at that time to the Cowboy was, ‘If I’m coming to work, then we’re going to work.  What are your biggest challenges right now….”

Alfalfa hay

After a late night painting – it was an early rise this morning.  We had several meetings to get to in Sioux Falls, a trim (remember Cowboy is a farrier?) on the way into town.. the owner tell me when I ask her what she does, her name is Joyce and she packs parachutes for the Guard, how cool is that?.  You think things go wrong when YOU have a bad day at work?  ….

We managed to fit in some noodling around town in-between which is fun for me because I’ve still got a lot to learn about the area and so does the Cowboy (which I’ll be writing about in a later post), and then we booked back home for chores and we had hoped his daughter’s basketball 1st grade basketball game.   She wouldn’t be there tonight, we sadly found out.  The Cowboy tried calling to talk with the kids to tell them he loved them and see what was up.  No response.

So, we stayed home and got the paint cans back out.  Only a couple more rooms to go!  (A huge shout out, by the way, to the Cowboy’s mom who comes over to help!)

Another beautiful day in South Dakota has come and gone.

Tomorrow there will still be chores .. and some painting left to wrap up .. but a new, bigger challenge comes.

I glance over before I turn in, myself for some zzzzzz’s.  I hope the Cowboy at the very least gets a good night’s sleep ..

Because we are off in the morning to Pierre.


I love the snow.

And the flakes that came down much of the day outside many of our windows were beautiful … and long overdue for a crisp January day in the Midwest.

The Cowboy says in response to my excitement, with a smirk, “It’s beautiful .. but it sure makes for a long, kind of miserable day of work.”

South Dakota morning

It snowed some overnight in eastern South Dakota as well.  And, its just cold.  As I wrote this, he wasn’t all that fired up about being out in it today shoeing and had one more appointment to go.  The Cowboy, by the way, is a farrier, most of the time.  His other professional affiliations, like lifelong pretty awesome team roper from what I’ve seen and ever heard as well as being part of the sales force for a rodeo industry product (not sure what else to call it) we can talk about some other time.  Because it’ll take some explanation.

Today, he played the role of farrier and dad.

While I love the snow, love being out playing in the snow (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, ice skating, whatever .. you get it) and love watching the snow, even driving in it sometimes (although doing donuts in a Prius isn’t quite as cool or as possible as some of my beater cars growing up)… I can’t imagine having to be out a good chunk of the day, working in it.

Dress warmly, I think to myself.

Fresh snowfall

The Cowboy and I see each other pretty often for living 7 hours apart.  6 1/2 if you drive a little faster.  He is on his way back to what I’d like to now call his second home.  Ours.  This time tomorrow.

And in the forecast, as he’s scheduled to shoe for a barn here on Thursday…. is more snow.